Archives For camera

360fly4k in hand

Following the publication of my guide to The Best 360 Degree Camera at The Wirecutter, I sat down with Chuck Joiner at MacVoices to talk all about it. We cover why someone would want a 360-degree camera in the first place, some background on how I went about making the final selections, and more.

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Group test2

Here’s something a long time coming. I’m thrilled to announce that I have a new guide at The Wirecutter: The Best 360-Degree Camera.

This is by far one of the most interesting projects I’ve done. 360-degree cameras capture the entire sphere around the photographer, in stills or video, which is great for getting a better sense of a scene beyond what a typical photo frame offers. But this photography also has many challenges, such as where you the photographer appears—many of us are happy to hide behind the camera, but in this case there is no “behind” the camera.

It was also a challenge to set parameters, because the cameras we chose for final testing take different approaches to the task of capturing a 360-degree scene. They’re not like most cameras where a lot of the features are the same from model to model and you look to see which one has better resolution or low-light capabilities. For example, the Ricoh Theta S, Nikon KeyMission 360, and Samsung Gear 360 each use two extreme–wide-angle lenses to capture two images, which are then stitched together in the camera as one image. However, the 360fly 4K designers opted to use just one lens to avoid the stitching altogether, which unfortunately means you end up with dead area in the image where the lens can’t see.

When viewed in the cameras’ apps or in a few locations online such as Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube, you can explore the entire scene by dragging the image. If you’re on a mobile device, some sites like Facebook enable you to turn your body and move the device to view everything. It’s a very cool effect! (The image below is hosted at Flickr and should be interactive. You can also see a few more at this Flickr album.)


In the end, it wasn’t just image resolution or form factor that made one rise above the others, but a combination of hardware, software, and experience to capture the images, and then the process of doing something with the files (which has its own complexities). I’ll let you read the guide to see which one was the winner. I was surprised, and I was the one doing the research!

360-degree photography is really in its early days, and I think this category will get even more interesting in the near future as customers decide what to do with the cameras and manufacturers cater to those whims. In the meantime, the shots you get can really stand apart from traditional cameras in many ways.

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20160415 Selfie

A woman captures a selfie in front of the EMP museum in Seattle.

If you like the work I do, please consider signing up for my low-volume newsletter that I use to announce new projects, items, and giveaways that I think my readers would be interested in.

Chasing Light: Switzerland from Austin Mann on Vimeo.

Two thoughts:

  1. These photos and videos, and the results Mann found, are pretty stunning.

  2. Why the hell am I not in Switzerland? Amazingly beautiful.

Read and see the review here: iPhone 6s Camera Review

If you like the work I do, please consider signing up for my low-volume newsletter that I use to announce new projects, items, and giveaways that I think my readers would be interested in.

Iphone6 hands on area

I attended Apple’s launch event yesterday for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch. Although all the technical details of the devices can be found online, it was great to feel these new devices in hand.

Over at the Articles page, I’ve written up details of what’s new in the cameras of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Apple is still aggressively pushing the camera capabilities of its phones, since more people are taking photos with iPhones than with compact cameras. Read the article here: iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: the Cameras.

Adam Savage, one half of the Mythbusters duo, rants about a problem so obvious in digital photography that it’s amazing a solution isn’t out there: the difficulty of even “easy” point-and-shoot cameras. He should know, since he’s frequently asked to pose for photos. He writes:

We have been inculcated with the idea that with a “simple” camera, we should be able to point it and push the button. The camera designers have other ideas, like your needing to hold the shutter button for two to five seconds. Who is expecting to have to do THAT? I can tell you who: nobody.

I know. I know. I can hear you saying, “But they’re only trying to take the best pictures!” And I get that. I do. I appreciate that.

But I get my pic taken with nearly everything you can imagine that has a camera in it. And most of them are mystifying to people not familiar with the device. This is a design travesty.

Go read the whole thing, where he also offers a pair of sensible suggested fixes. (The first part of the entry also rants against soap dispensers; he’s currently on tour, and running into circumstances like this every day.)


Canon has unveiled the successor to the EOS M, the EOS M2, but there’s no indication yet (says CanonRumors) that it will be sold in the Americas or Europe.

According to PetaPixel, the biggest shortcoming of the EOS M has been addressed: autofocus is much improved thanks to a better processor. Otherwise the M2 seems very much like its predecessor, with the same body design and 18 megapixel APS-C image sensor. The camera also gains built-in Wi-Fi.

If the M2 does appear, I’m guessing my book Canon EOS M: From Snapshots to Great Shots will still be a useful resource.

By the way, the EOS M is still heavily discounted: Amazon has it (with 22mm lens) for just $329. The image quality really is superb—here’s a link to a set of photos I’ve shot using the EOS M.

Canon-EOS-M_Great-Shots_sRGB.jpgJust in time for the holidays, the Canon EOS M mirrorless camera is now just a hair over $300 including the lens. (It originally sold for close to $800!)

Pick up the camera and a copy of my book (itself only $19) while you’re at it: Canon EOS M: From Snapshots to Great Shots

(My thanks in advance if you consider buying them using these affiliate links, which helps support me!)

Autumn Change

[Be sure to view it larger in Flickr’s Lightbox interface.]

On a walk today, I spied a backlit leaf that demanded to be photographed. (It’s fall, so this becomes a frequent occurrence.) Although I was carrying my Canon PowerShot G12 in my bag, I of course reached for my iPhone to grab the shot. I upgraded to the iPhone 5s last week largely because of the camera, and this was a good test.

It was windy, so the leaf was whipping around in all directions, making the backlight fleeting. I grabbed the stem of the leaf with my left hand to steady it somewhat, although that really only kept the leaf in frame—it’s not like I suddenly had a still-life studio environment. When I’d positioned it so the light was hitting it reliably, I pressed and held the shutter button in the Camera app. Under iOS 7, doing so activates Burst mode. On the iPhone 5s, that means capturing at 10 frames per second! 20 frames later I lifted my hand.

IMG 4900

The Photos app stacks the images from the burst and suggests a representative favorite (the gray dot below the thumbnails in the image above; this screenshot was taken after I cropped the photo, which is why it looks different from the others). I looked through the others but ended up accepting the suggested one. (Tip: Pinch outward with two fingers to zoom in on any of the photos being reviewed.)

After I tapped Done, I edited that shot just using the Photos app—not iPhoto or others—so I could crop it and bring more attention to the leaf.

And that’s it. I didn’t make any exposure or color adjustments, and I didn’t apply any sharpening. The detail in the leaf is straight out of the camera.

(Okay, technically the iPhone did apply sharpening after taking the shot. The raw image data captured by the sensor isn’t accessible to outsiders or even apps as far as I know, so what you see is the result of the iPhone’s processor evaluating and adjusting the image, just as you would see with any camera that outputs a JPEG image file.)

I’m pretty darn impressed with the iPhone 5s camera. Apple has put a lot of its attention on the software and processing hardware to create high-quality images without the owner needing to know anything about photography, and it shows.

(If I’d had any sense at the time, I would have also shot slow motion footage of the leaf. Maybe it’ll still be there tomorrow…)

iPhone 5s Camera

Patrick Rhone is spot-on in this post about the impact the camera capabilities of the iPhone 5s is going to have on the industry—the camera industry: Worth a Thousand Words. As I was following the press event, I realized that just the camera functions of the iPhone 5s are smarter than any camera I own. Patrick writes:

And, what is interesting and absolutely marvelous about what Apple is doing here is that, when approaching how to make the best camera available today (and, I feel the need to stress, not just the best phone camera), they knew that did not mean specs. That it was not about who had the most megapixels, or biggest lens, or largest sensor. They know that none of that, at the end of the day matters. What mattered, in fact, was the one thing that, in a race to equate more megapixels with “better”, even most of the camera industry had too long overlooked. Apple focussed solely on how they could use that massive and fast 64bit processor combined with industry first features and ideas to do one thing — give you the best looking photos. And, if you can get that right when you take the photo, you don’t need a bunch of software to “fix it in post”. It’s all about capture.

I wasn’t planning on buying a new iPhone this year, but the camera might just sway me. I currently use an iPhone 4S, which I bought two years ago—because of the camera.